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15th Issue Vol. 2 No.

12 ISSN 2094-1765 December 2009

Growing Dendrobium Orchids

by Norberto R. Bautista

Dendrobium is one of the widely cultivated

orchid in the Philippines, and is also one of
the largest genus of tropical orchids, which
is composed of about 1200 species. The
plants also exhibit a variety of sizes and
shapes, including flower color, scent and
size. Dendrobiums are found in diverse
habitats throughout much of south, east and
southeast Asia, including the Borneo,
Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand and
Philippines. It is one of easiest to grow and
affordable for orchid enthusiasts. The
Philippines has a lot of Dendrobium species
to offer, however, most of them are
botanicals and has flowers that last only 1
day (one day orchid).

The name Dendrobium came from the

Greek 'dendron' (meaning tree) and bios
(meaning life), as they are often found
clinging in tree branches. The species are
either epiphytic (tree growing) or
occasionally lithophytic (rock growing). The
plants have adapted to a wide variety of
habitats, from the high altitudes in the
Himalayan mountains to lowland tropical
forests and even to the dry climate of the Australian desert.

Dendrobium orchids are sympodial and have pseudobulbs, which is composed of long reedlike
stem with a length of about 30 cm and used as storage organ for water and food. There are also
miniature types, about 3-5 cm tall or the tall ones, measuring a meter or two in height. The
presence of pseudobulbs help the orchid survive in dry periods and oftentimes during occurence
of drought. Some peeudobulbs appear densely covered with short white hairs. The leaves are
short and ovate-shaped, growing alternately over the whole length of the stems. However, there
are times that the pseudobulb loose its leaves and becomes bald.

The floral blooms or flowers develop in the upper part of the stem or pseudobulb. Flower color
ranges from white, yellow, pink, orange, violet, red, or blue, with various shapes, sizes, stripes
and forms. Flowers on plants usually last 2 to 4 weeks.Some species are in great demand by
orchid growers and collectors as they are used in breeding works to produce hybrids. Some
hybrids are well sought after by florists.Dendrobium phalaenopsis is one of the most importart
species since it is used in all Dendrobium cutflower variety breeding.

Inter-species breeding has resulted in
numerous varieties and hybrids, which
makes the plant a wonderful breeding

Dendrobiums are widely bred and grown in

Hawaii and in Thailand. The flowers are
made into a lei neclace used to welcome
incoming tourists, and may also be used as a
garnishing in food preparation. Some
species are even medicinal, while others are
used as in handicrafts, as their dried yellow
stem is used to adorn baskets or belts. It is
also a very important cut-flower material both
local and abroad, specially the white and
violet colored ones.

How to grow this plant.

The Dendrobium have a sympodial type of

growth habit, wherein each new pseudobult
arise from pre-existing old canes. The
pseudobulbs are capable of storing water
and nutrients thus, the growth of new
pseudobulbs is dependent on the previews
old pseudobulbs.

(Top Left is a yellow Dendrobium

chrysanthum, while below is the
famous Dendrobium Sonia.)


Light. Matured Dendrobiums grow in

60% sunlight up to 75% sun,
provided that they are protected from
intense heat and light at noontime, to
prevent scorching of leaves. Shade
nets are used to provide the right
amount of light, or plants are placed
in eves of houses. For seedlings,
they may be grown in 50% shade, but
later needs to be adjusted in higher
light intensity for flower initiation.

Potting Techniques. Dendorbiums

could be planted either in plastic or
clay pots, and the plant have to be
properly stalked or anchored in the center of the pot using GI or copper wires. The plant may also
be mounted on live trees or dead wood, and plants needs to be anchored properly of else they
will fail to root. Dendrobiums flower within 1.5- 2 years from seedlings.

Watering. The rate of watering depends on location, wind movement, and light intensity. Water
only when the media is dry; and allow plant to dry (not bone dry) before another watering.
Spraying water all over the plant using a water hose until the plant is dripping wet is satisfactory.

The plants needs to be watered
regularly, and changes in watering
frequency usually causes the plant
to shed its leaves. Ventilation or
wind movement is very important
in drying the plant. Plants needs to
be kept dry a few hours after
watering. Water soaked plants
tend to rot. Use an industrial or
electric fan to dry plants if wind
movement is not available.

Flowering. Plants flower when

mature, and when well exposed to
light, and well fertilized
and watered. 1.5 to 2.0 old plants
usually mature enough to flower.
After flowering, they need a rest
period of about 6 months to flower

Fertilization. Dendrobiums need

to be fertilized using a dilute orchid
foliar fertilizer solution once every
week. Follow the recommended
dilution rate in the label of
fertilizers. Fertilize the plants early
in the morning, as nutrients are
commonly absorbed by the leaves
and roots in the presence of light.

Dendrobium White Pagoda

Potting Media. Dendrobiums are epiphytes and usually grow on tree trunks in their
native habitat. In culture, they could grow on coconut husk, charcoal, croaks (broken pottery), and
chopped tree fern, acacia wood, or caimito branches. For coconut husks, they need to be soaked
first overnight for 2 days for the tanins to be leached out before using. These tanins prevent the
plant from rooting properly.
Pests and Disease Management. Dendrobiums are often attacked by weevils, which
bore holes on the canes or pseudobulb, and they are very difficult to eliminate. Weevils can be
eliminated by handpicking or spraying of a systemic insecticide. Sucking insects like thrips, mites
and scales also attack Dendrobiums, and they can be controlled by a dilute spray of Lannate or
Sevin insecticides. During rainy season, spray fungicides like Dithane or Captan to protect plants
from rotting.
Propagation. Conventionally, Dendrobiums could be propagated through division of
pseudobulbs. Plants can be divided using sterile pruning shears into 3 pseudobulbs each and
mounted on clay pots with charcoal or coconut husks. The wound needs to be sealed with a
fungicides paste (a teaspoon of water added in 2 teaspoon fungicide powder) to prevent entry of
fungal diseases into the wound. The fastest and efficient way of propagation is through seed
culture technology in the laboratory. Flowers of selected plants are pollinated, and their seed
capsule are allowed to mature. Dendrobium seed capsules mature in about 3 months. They
usually contain about 20,000 seeds! The seeds are then sown in the laboratory in a glass vessel
with an artificial nutrient medium, when the seeds will germinate till they become hardy seedlings
in a years time. Then, they are out-planted in the nursery where they mature from 1.5 to 2 years

Weirdest of the Weird

The Philippine Rafflesia

by Norberto R. Bautista & Photos by Julie Barcelona

A Rafflesia schandenbergiana comparable to that of a child. It is the 2nd largest rafflesia recorded

Rafflesias are enigmatic group of parasitic flowering plants which deserves attention as it is
unique, intriguing, and at the same time endangered. Their survival will depend on how we take
care of our forest. It is a plant not intended for the home garden, however, it will be a very
popular plant to attract foreign tourists in a botanical garden.

The plant has no stems, leaves or true roots. Strange, right? It is an endoparasite of a specific
plant host, the Tetrastigma vine which belongs to the Vitaceae or grape family. The Tetrastigma
vine is its only host, thus, theoretically, if you want to grow Rafflesia, you have to grow the
Tetrastigma vine first through stem cuttings, and introduce the seeds later. The Rafflesia spreads
its root-like haustoria inside the tissues of the vine, and absorbs its host’s sap until it matures.
The only part of the plant that can be seen outside the host vine is the five-petaled flower, range
in size from 3 feet wide to 6 inches in diameter.

An Indonesian guide working for Dr. Joseph Arnold in 1818 discovered the first Rafflesia plant in
the rain forest of Indonesia. The plant was named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the leader
of the expedition.

A Rafflesia baletei (left) and a Rafflesia banahawensis

The genus contains approximately 27 species all found in southeastern Asia, on the Malay
Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, and the Philippines. The Philippines has 9 species namely: R.
schandenbergiana (2nd largest in the world, and the largest in the Philippines), R. speciosa, R.
panchoana, R. mira, R. manillana (the smallest), R. lobata, R. leonardi, R. banahawensis and R.
baletei. Our country is the center of Rafflesia research.

The plant group belongs to the mysterious Rafflesiaceae family. With the advent of DNA tests, it
was revealed that comparing the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences of Rafflesia with other
angiosperm (flowering plants), it was indicated that this parasite evolved from photosynthetic
plants of the order Malpighiales and is closely related to the family Euphorbiaceae (where your
Poinsettia and Euphobia plants belong), which is astonishing as members of that family typically
have very small flowers.

The Rafflesia plants are

considered the "Queens of the
Parasites," as one species,
Rafflesia arnoldii (the largest of
its kind and is found in
Indonesia), has enormous three-
foot wide, waxy-looking red and
white-freckled blossoms which
smell like rotting corpse. The
flowers’ smell gave the plant its
local names which translate to
"corpse flower" or "meat flower".

Dr. Barcelona inspecting a R. manillana in its natural habitat…

Yet not all Rafflesia blooms are monster-sized. Some produce only smaller, palm-sized
blossoms. The smallest, R. manillana, has 20 cm diameter flowers.

R. speciosa (left) and R. panchoana (right)

The vile smell that the flower gives off attracts insects such as carrion flies or blue bottle flies,
which transport pollen from male to female flowers. Little is known about the plant’s seed
dispersal. However, tree shrews, rodents and other forest mammals apparently eat the fruits and
disperse the seeds. Rafflesia is an official state flower of Sabah in Malaysia, as well as for the
Surat Thani Province, Thailand. The Rafflesia flower is the icon of plant conservation works in
Southeast Asia.

The Rafflesia shares its characteristic corpse-smelling flowers to the Pungapung Arum plant
(Amorphophallus titanum) of the Araceae
family. Both Rafflesia and Amorphophallus are
flowering plants, but they are distantly related.

Even though it has a very attractive looking

flower, there has been no technology yet to
cultivate the plant in gardens or in
greenhouses. It relies primarily to its host, the
Tetrastigma vine, in order for the plant to live.
Thus, research has been being done in order
to grow the Tetrastigma vine and then to
inoculate the Rafflesia plant into it.
Rafflesia lobota

Most folks never get to see this plant in bloom as the Rafflesia rarely blossom, sometimes taking
five to 10 years between flowerings. And they're found only in remote Malaysian, Indonesian and
Philippine rain forests.

The life cycle of this plant is still an enigma. People tend to see the plant only when it flowers,
and it is found only in a specific location. Thus, there is a need to protect sites where the plant is
found, or else, the plant disappears when its forest site is destroyed and converted into
agricultural land.

Rafflesia blooms usually in the rainy season, and begin to senesce in a few days, turning to slimy,
black masses. A phenomenon in the plant kingdom, Rafflesia may be the "giant panda of the
plant world." Though a single female flower may produce thousands of seeds, and likely
dispersed by tree shrews, rats and other wildlife, but their survival is still in question. Seeds
rarely find host vines, thus, elevating their unpredictable flowerings.

Malaysian and Indonesian botanical gardens usually use Rafflesia species to tourists, and
protect specific sites where the plants grow. We hope to see a horticultural technology be
develop to cultivate and propagate Rafflesia in botanical gardens or greenhouses in the

Philippine species

Filipino scientists and botanists has been tremendously active since 2002 in discovering and
naming several new species of Rafflesia. Before this time there were only two species known: R.
manillana and R. schadenbergiana, the latter of which was last seen in 1882 on Mt. Apo in Davao
Province, Mindanao and was thought to be extinct.

However, in 2002 Dr. Julie Barcelona and Dr. Edwino Fernando discovered Rafflesia speciosa in
the mountains of Antique Province. Three years after, in 2005, another Rafflesia was Dr.
Fernando and Dr. Perry Ong on the remote Mt. Candalaga, Maragusan, Campostela Valley
Province on Mindanao. It was named Rafflesia mira.

Another group (that of Dr. Domingo Madulid and his co-workers published another name (R.
magnifica) later, however, R. mira stands as the nomenclaturally valid name. R. mira (45-60 cm in
diameter), is approximately the same size as R. speciosa (45-56 cm) of Antique Province, but
definitely larger than Luzon’s R. manillana (14-20 cm in diameter).

In April 2005, during his expedition to Mt. Igtuog and Mt. Sakpaw in the Central Panay mountain
range, Renee Galang discovered a previously undescribed Rafflesia which was later named R.
lobata by Galang and Madulid in 2006.

In 2006, a previously collected and undescribed species by Danny Balete in 1991 from the Bicol
Region was recognized. Dr. Barcelona, Mary Ann Cajano and Dr. Annalee Hadsall named it R.
baletei in honor of its discoverer after field work has confirmed it to be different from R.
manillana. Several new populations have also been seen in the Camarines Sur Province,
specifically in Mt. Isarog and Mt. Asog (or Mt. Iriga).

Moreover, in 2007, Dr. Julie Barcelona reports on the discovery of yet another population of the
rare R. schandenbergiana in Bukidnon.

In the same year, a new Rafflesia species was discovered in Mt. Banahaw in Luzon, a popular
destination for mountaineering and religious groups. It is an unlikely spot to find a new species of

this strange plant. But such was the case and two papers was published naming it R.
banahawensis by Dr. Madulid and another by the group of Dr. Barcelona

Dr. Madulid and co-workers also discovered on the same year (but published in 2008), through
additional field and herbarium work on the Rafflesia known originally as R. manillana from Mt.
Makiling yielded the description of a new species, R. panchoana.

In 2008, in the remote sitio Kinapawan in the coastal town of Lallo in Cagayan Valley, a new
Rafflesia was made known to Filipino botanists. Working with CAVAPPED, Conservation
International (CI), and DENR staff, Dr. Barcelona traveled to the site and collected the type of this
Rafflesia. She named it R. leonardi, in honor of Leonardo Co, who is an expert on the Cagayan
Flora. It is similar to R. manillana of Samar and Luzon and R. lobata of Panay by the wide
diaphragm aperture and flowers that grow on the roots and aerial portion of the vine. It is,
however, different in its larger size (to 34 cm), central disk that is nearly smooth or with markedly
reduced processes, and the absence of white blotches/windows inside the floral tube. It is the 5th
Rafflesia found on Luzon and the 9th from the Philippines.

An advocacy in protecting and conserving our last remaining forest is being spearheaded by the
Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society.

The Santan (Ixora) With a New Twist.

By Lawrence Chan

The lowly Santan, or Ixora sp is

one of the oldest known flowering
plant and is internationally known
as Jungle Geranium, Flame of
the Woods, and Jungle Flame.
Its name was derived from an
Indian deity. The genus Ixora is
widespread in Indian sub-
continent, China, Indo-China,
Malayan peninsula to Indonesia,
and the Philippines, with
approximately 420 to 450
species. The plant is
represented with approximately
45 species in the Philippines.

The Santan is a popular cultivated ornamental shrub, flowering year-round, and requiring little
care. It grows from half meter to 4 meters height in height, and the plant is highly trainable as a
hedge, and sometimes as a bonsai. There are now hundreds of colorful hybrids that are
commonly cultivated in towns and cities. There is the usual sized Santan, and there is also the
dwarf varieties.

Flower cluster comes in color of white, yellow, red, red orange, tangerine, pink, and they are
without fragrance. But for some species like Ixora finlaysoniana or Santang Puti , the flower is
highly fragrant.

Folkloric Uses

The Santan has some folkloric uses. In most parts of the Philippines and other Asian countries
the flowers are used in making colorful leis and commonly planted as hedges and in container
pots. Plant parts of Ixora like leaves, stems, roots and flowers are utilized in traditional medicines.
The flower decoction is used for the treatment of hypertension, amenorrhea and irregular
menstruation. The decoctions of leaves are also used for wounds and skin ulcers, while the
poulticed fresh leaves and stems are used for sprains, eczema, boils and contusions. The diluted
tincture of roots is used for mouthwash and gargles for sore throat.

Cultural Requirements of the Plant.

Light. The santan is grown in full sun, which induces its year round flowering. It is used in
landscaping in open areas, usually exposed to bright light. Plants placed in shaded areas does
not bloom much.

Watering and Fertilization. In order to maintain a healthy plant, regular monthly fertilization of
complete fertilizer 14-14-14 recommended. Apply about one-half teaspoon of complete fertilizer
per plant every month in order to induce healthy growth and produce more flowers. For very
sunny areas, water the plant once a day or once every 2 days. Santan plants are very hardy and
can tolerate slight drying.

Potting Techniques. The plant grows in practically any type of soil, but it will thrives best in rich
sandy loam. For best results, mix a potting medium composed of equal parts of sand, garden soil
and compost. The plants needs to be watered regularly in order to stay active and healthy.
Small plants can be established in 8-inch clay pots, but often times, these plants are planted
directly into the soil.

Controlling Pest & Diseases. Plants are easily attacked by several kinds of insects like ants,
mealy bugs and aphids. To control insect infestation, spray plants with insecticides like Malathion
or Lannate. Spraying a systematic insecticide would eradicate these sucking insects. Regular
pruning is also necessary, in order to remove dead branches and also to induce it a bushy

Propagation. Santan is commonly

propagated through stem cuttings ,
marcotting and layering. For hedges
and mass plantings, pruning is done
right after blossoms have withered to
maintain height of 30-60 cm. For
breeding purposes, the Santan flower
can be pollinated for it to produce
fruits or berries which contain the

There is a trend now of producing

newer varieties of santan, usually the
bright orange once.

The Santan is the ideal plant for low-maintenance landscaping, usually planted in roadsides and
public places due to its capability to thrive in neglect, it is very affordable, and produces an all-
year round bloom. Plant propagators in Tabang, Bulacan and Bay, Los Baños, Laguna produce
different varieties of Santan by the thousands for landscapers in the city.

The Colorful Moon Cacti
by Norberto Bautista

If you will be visiting some plant shops like those at Manila Seedling Bank at Quezon
Avenue corner EDSA in Quezon City , you would see some very colorful round cacti
growing on top of another green-stemmed cacti. For plant amateurs, this would look like
flowers coming out of a cacti, but actually these are 2 cacti grafted together.

Almost any two cacti can actually be successfully grafted, and produce some interesting
forms. Cacti grafting is usually done in order to: (1) Save plants severely rotted or
diseased, by grafting the remaining healthy portion of the plant onto another cactus; (2)
to ensure better growth and flowering by grafting scions of slow growing species onto
vigorous, fast-growing stocks; and (3) to develop unusual growth forms.

Grafted cacti are novelties which are being sold in some plant shops in Quezon City .
The most common of these novelty cacti is the “Moon Cacti”, a marketing name, and
which mostly mass-produced from Korea . With brightly colored scions of red, orange,
yellow, or white atop green stocks, the “Moon Cacti” are quite striking. The sources of
the colored scions are mutant seedlings lacking the green chlorophyll pigment. These
wild mutant color variations are artificially induced probably by irradiation These
seedlings would not live by themselves for more than a few weeks since the absence of
chlorophyll prevents them from making food by photosynthesis. As tiny seedlings they
are grafted onto vigorous green stocks, which provide the materials to support the
colored scions. The top cacti used as a scion is Gymnocalycium mihanovichii friedrichii
(also commonly known as 'Hibotan'), a desert cactus, while the grafted green stem or
root stock is Hylocereus trigonus, a jungle cactus.

These “Moon Cacti” can grow for years, but when the green tissues of the stock begin to
cork over from old age, re-grafting to a new stock is necessary or the scion will slowly
starve to death.

Grow the plant as you would to other cactus. Place you Moon Cactus in a location
where it will get bright indirect light, or even in a window that gets a few hours of direct
sun - preferably morning or late afternoon sun. Avoid placing them in an area where it
will receive hot direct mid-day sun, or else the plants will be scorched. Water the plant
thoroughly, and don't water again until the pot is fairly dry about down to a depth of 1" in
the soil. You may water them every other day or every 3 days. Do not over-water your
plant, for this this will cause rotting of the root system, and kill your plant. It will benefit
from a monthly drenching of dilute fertilizer solution composed of about ½ teaspoon of
complete balanced orchid fertilizer dissolved in 1 galloon water.

A batch of colorful moon cacti – non-photosynthetic cacti grafted on another cacti species for
survival. They are nice decorations during Christmas due to their red and yellow color.

These plants may sometimes suffer from sucking insects like mites, thrips, scales and
aphids. If insect infestation occurs, spray them with an insecticidal solution of either
Lannate or Sevin with a little drop of dish-washing detergent as a sticker once every
week for 3 weeks.

Use a sandy loam soil mix that drains well and allows some drying out between
waterings. Top dress with small pebbles or coarse gravel for quicker water drainage.
Place them either in plastic or clay pots

The Urban Gardener is an official electronic publication (in PDF Format) of the Plant Biotechnology
Project, Research & Development Center, Rizal Technological University, Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong
City, Philippines. It is published monthly. For more information, please inquire thru email:
rdc_rtu@yahoo.com or plantbiotech_rtu@yahoo.com and landline (+632) 534-8267 Local 135 or Fax
(+632) 534-9710.

All articles in this month’s issue was written and edited by N.R. Bautista © November 2009

The Plant Biotechnology Project Committee is composed of: Alexander B. Quilang, Norberto R. Bautista,
Jovita A. Anit & Carnette C. Pulma.